Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Archive for March 2016

Creation of a Contingent Legal Aid Fund?

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Ideas for  new ways of funding cases for persons of moderate means have been floating around for a number of years. JUSTICE produced a report on the matter as long ago as 1978. The Bar Council returned to the issue in 2008/9 when a policy group, chaired by Guy Mansfield QC, made proposals for the establishment of such a scheme. And suggestions for the creation of a scheme were made to Lord Justice Jackson’s Review of the Costs of Civil Litigation.

In that report, he did not make a definitive recommendation, but he did propose that the Government should undertake further modelling work to see whether a financially viable scheme could be created.

With recent cuts to the publicly funded legal aid scheme, Lord Justice Jackson has returned to the issue in a speech delivered in February 2016. He notes that such a scheme has successfully operated in Hong Kong for a number of years; and that similar schemes also operate in a number of Australian states.

A CLAF would not offer funding in all cases; it would have to be very selective in the cases it took on. As Lord Justice Jackson noted, it would – in effect – be a not-for-profit third party funding scheme. The idea provokes many questions:

  • where would the initial seed corn money come from?
  • how would the fund be sustained?
  • who would decide which cases to support?
  • would the introduction of such a scheme require changes to the normal principle that a loser pays the costs of the winner?

In his lecture, Lord Justice Jackson argues that the time has not come for more detailed work to be done on this issue and argues at the legal profession – the Bar, the Law Society and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives – should come together an develop proposals.

Whether the legal profession will rise to the Jackson challenge is not at present clear – but it is an issue worth keeping an eye on.

To read the Jackson lecture, visit https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/lj-jackson-speech-clf-160202.pdf

Written by lwtmp

March 20, 2016 at 5:11 pm

Posted in Chapter 10

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More fixed costs in civil litigation?

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Lord Justice Jackson is indefatigable. He has not abandoned the issue of the cost of litigation on which he produced a major report at the end of 2009. Since then the Government has taken steps to implement some of Jackson’s proposals. But in his opinion, these have not yet gone far enough. So he has taken a recent opportunity to argue that now is the time for much greater use of fixed costs in the course of litigation.

He set out his views in a lecture delivered in January 2016. You can read the lecture at https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/fixedcostslecture-1.pdf

It is not yet known how far the Government is likely to take his proposals, but with the ferment of reforms currently surrounding the civil justice system (among others) it is reasonable to suppose that at least some further extension of fixed costs will be introduced in the not too distant future.

 

 

Written by lwtmp

March 19, 2016 at 3:39 pm

Regulation of Claims Management Companies

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One of the documents published with papers relating to the March 2016 Budget statement was a report of an independent review of Claims Management Companies (CMCs). Unusually, CMCs are regulated by a dedicated Unit which operates within the Ministry of Justice, rather than by a body more independent of a government department.

The review offers three options for the way forward: 1, creating a wholly now external regulator; 2, leaving things within the Ministry of Justice, while building on the reform programme currently being developed by the Unit; or 3, transferring the function to the Financial Conduct Authority.

The review concluded that the first option would be unlikely to be approved by Government, as it would be too expensive and disruptive. The second option would be the least disruptive to the market; option 3 would permit a new, refreshed approach.

The Government has now announced that it will transfer this function to the FCA – but as this will require legislation to achieve, it is unlikely to take place before 2018.

Details of the review are at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/508160/PU1918_claims_management_regulation_review_final.pdf

 

 

Written by lwtmp

March 18, 2016 at 11:54 am